What are the Los Angeles Clippers?
This is such a simple question, but I believe there is no one correct answer. I don’t think NBA fans have seen the best version of this talented, 39–19 Clippers team. They have only had a full roster for 6 games this year and in those 6 games, they are undefeated. I believe that there is no team in the NBA that can beat a healthy Clippers team in a 7-game series. While this statement is popular there is still one glaring flaw with it and that is the health of the Clippers. Their two superstars, for whom they gave their whole future up, have been in and out of the lineup with injuries and have only played 18 games together. There is no switch that they can turn on and ensure that Paul George doesn’t pull up with a hamstring injury in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
I think the Clippers saw this issue and addressed it at the trade deadline by adding depth. They acquired Marcus Morris from New York, a proven scorer who can take over scoring duties if one of their superstars is not capable or available on a given night. They also added veteran guard Reggie Jackson, another playmaker who can play with the second unit and take the pressure off of Lou Williams. Led by reigning NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers are arguably the deepest team in the NBA, with 6 players averaging double-digit points. Not only are the Clippers deep offensively, but they are stout on the defensive end as well.
The Clippers defense is led by Paul George, who was an All-NBA 1st team defender last year, Kawhi Leonard an All NBA 2nd team defender and two-time Defensive Player of the Year, along with Patrick Beverly, a former All-NBA defender and a problem for opposing guards (and KD and LeBron when he wants a challenge) every night. The Clippers are Top 5 in defensive rating and with their versatility, they can have lineups where all five of their players can switch on everything. This is the luxury of having 6’8” center Montrezl Harrell, who can switch on to guards on the perimeter and bang with guys, such as Nikola Jokic, in the low-post. The argument against the Clippers, however, is directed at Harrell because they are criticized for being too small and that they cannot compete with the Lakers size, although, that wasn’t the case when they beat them on Christmas and Opening Night. Additionally, 7-foot center Ivica Zubac has improved since being played out of the series against the Warriors last year and will be a factor if the Clippers meet the Lakers in the playoffs.
Along with their plethora of talent, the Clippers are led by an experienced coaching staff consisting of former NBA Champions, Head Coach Doc Rivers and Assistant Coach Tyronn Lue. These two coaches, along with the rest of their staff have worked alongside owner Steve Ballmer, whose antics represent the toughness of this squad, to build a strong contender.
Back to the question, What are the Clippers? Well, I believe that they are a team that is essentially unbeatable at full strength but are still searching for their identity. Their lack of continuity could be exploited in a playoff series, but I believe that with their talented, deep, playoff-experienced, roster they will be a tough match for any opponent. Their defensive prowess will help them overcome their issues and will be the defining factor that determines whether this squad brings the hardware back to the streets of L.A.